The digital boom is all a bit ‘last century’ now, and the majority of organisations have embraced on-line channels to promote their businesses.
However, many business-to-business groups are merely dipping their toes in the water when it comes to their on-line presence and are still failing to reach their audience through digital means, according to a new report by Radley Yeldar.
The report – ‘Attracting audience: why should B2C keep all the best ideas?’ – claims that the business-to-business market, or B2B as it is commonly known, is still in its infancy when it comes to using the Internet for communications and marketing. It says the corporate sector should look to its business-to-consumer counterparts for advice. While there is a difference between communicating to a business audience and speaking to consumers, both groups are ‘made up of individuals who respond to relevant, engaging messages. Both groups are made up of people’, according to the report.
It suggests some simple rules: that designing a corporate website alone is not enough, and that websites must be search engine-friendly. The report goes on to say that businesses should follow in the footsteps of social networking organisations such as Friends Reunited or Dating Direct to aid networking. This is perhaps not ground-breaking advice, and all quite obvious in the Web-savvy world in which most of us now live, but apparently there is still a need to go back to basics in the business world.
‘I have a long history of working to help brands digitally, going back to 1990,’ says Ken Frakes, author of the report and head of digital at Radley Yeldar. ‘The majority of the spend and development [in digital] has been with consumer brands, which everyone knows around the Internet. It seems crazy that I find myself here, 17 years later, and find B2B and the corporate market still in its infancy when it comes to using the Internet for marketing and communications. Quite often I go into large international businesses, in the FTSE 100, and they don’t consider how powerful the Internet can be, they have not considered how they can use it. [They need to learn] from what has been tried and tested with consumer brands and apply it to the corporate market,’ he advises.
Simply investing in the design of a corporate website is not enough, and organisations should start to use the Internet to carry out research, to advertise and to develop an embedded on-line presence, the report suggests.
It talks of user-generated content – content produced by a site’s users rather than its owners – and of how information can be received from a wide range of sources. Blogs are encouraged, as well as ‘thought pieces’ and analysis. Frakes adds that many of those in charge of this aspect of the business are not using the Internet properly and so are missing out on vital opportunities.
Social networking sites have taken over in the world of communications and should be exploited vigorously to build corporate relationships. The versatility of the Internet allows different types of business communications to be developed. As a result, three key types of relationships can be opened up – developing links with potential suppliers, courting potential customers and encouraging the right recruits.
It seems that many companies, while experts in their fields, need to step out of the 1990s and into the 21st century when it comes to digital.
• Businesses should use the Internet for marketing and advertising
• Blogs, thought pieces and analysis should feature as part of the design of company websites
• Social networking sites can be used to develop business relationships
• Corporate websites should be easy to find using search engines